Starting a new workout routine is hard for everyone, but it can be especially hard if you are overweight or obese. It may be daunting to think about losing weight in a way that works for your lifestyle and body type, but it is much easier than you may think to become healthier.
“Any little increment of physical activity is going to be a great boost to weight loss and feeling better,” says Rita Redberg, MSc, chairwoman of the American Heart Association’s Scientific Advisory Board for the Choose to Move program.
Carrying too much excess weight puts you at higher risk for certain diseases, including high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, sleep apnea, and depression. Exercise can improve the way your body functions throughout the day. If your body feels better as you move through daily activities, your mood and your confidence level are likely to get a boost as well.
Here are 5 tips to get you started on a fitness journey that will benefit your physical and mental well-being.
1. Find an activity you actually enjoy
It goes without saying that if you don’t like what you’re doing, you’re going to be much less inclined to find motivation to do it.
The great thing about exercise is that it comes in countless forms, so you just need to find what brings you the most joy. Whether it be dancing, swimming, walking, gardening, biking, or even doing chores around the house – anything that gets you up on your feet and moving for a prolonged period of time is going to be an incredible benefit to your well-being.
In general, you should aim to do a mix of some type of cardio and some strength training every week. If you hate running, for example, there’s no reason to make running your cardio workout —try cycling, swimming, walking, boxing, or even HIIT instead. Same for strength training: yoga, bodyweight exercises, and weight lifting are all great ways to strengthen your muscles, and you don’t have to do the ones that don’t feel good to you. The key is finding which type of workouts are right for you.
The most important aspect of finding a physical activity that you enjoy is that it increases the likelihood of you actually doing it which will make it a habit in your life.
2. Start Low and Go Slow
With anything in life, it helps to create an achievable goal for yourself. Many beginners make the mistake of starting out too aggressively, only to give up when they end up tired, sore, or injured. Some get discouraged because they think an aggressive workout will produce instant results.
If you start out too aggressive in your workout regiment, you’re more likely not to stick with it in the long run. The first step is to develop a new habit, so start slow and make your goals realistic.
Telling yourself you’re going to run two miles everyday when you haven’t ran in years isn’t very realistic or achievable. Instead, for example, set a goal to powerwalk for 30 minutes five days a week. Once you feel comfortable with that, set your goal to run for 10 minutes three days a week and power walk the other days. You can gradually increase the time, distance, or intensity as time goes on but the most important thing is to start small and build off of your progress.
Here’s a guide to creating a workout plan when you are first starting out.
3. Find the time
You don’t need to take much time out of your day to work out. For heart health, the AHA recommends at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity, such as walking, on most days of the week.
Even if you’re getting less than that though, you’re still going to see benefits. “It’s not like if you can’t do 30 minutes, you shouldn’t do anything, because you’re definitely going to see benefits even at 5 or 10 minutes of moving around.”
Instead of sitting on your couch after work to watch TV, take 30 minutes to walk around the neighborhood or on a treadmill while you listen to music, a book or podcast, or even while you watch Netflix on your phone. Try these 30 minute workouts as well to switch up your routine and get your body in shape.
4. Find the Right Environment
Exercise doesn’t have to be done at the gym. You can work out in the comfort of your own home if that’s where you feel most confident as you start your journey. Having a treadmill or a small set of dumbbells is a great way to start a workout journey at home. Here are some examples of equipment you can use in your home.
5. Don’t Compare Your Journey to Others
It can be discouraging to see where other people are in the fitness journey but take it from Jacqueline who has lost over 300 pounds,
“No matter how much you weigh, how much you want to lose, or what activity is best for you, it is important to keep in mind that when we begin, we must start with where we are, doing what we can, and focusing on doing our own personal best. We cannot expect to be at someone else level who has been working out for years, and we cannot compare the start of our own journey to the start of someone else’s journey. You must truly focus on you, your body and starting where you are.”
Even though it may be overwhelming to start working out for the first time, starting to do it at all is going to be incredibly beneficial to your overall quality of life. This should be a journey you take for yourself and at your own pace, and remember to be kind to yourself as you run into challenges. Follow these tips as well to help you on your journey.